SEOUL, Sept. 18 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea will investigate a nuclear reactor on the southwest coast to check its safety following the discovery of its faulty parts and conduct detailed inspections on all atomic energy plants to address safety issues, the government said Monday.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said it will look into the nation’s 24 nuclear reactors in the next four months to check whether there are irregularities in regard to their operation and construction process.
The move comes after several reactors have been discovered to have faulty parts, prompting local residents and civic activists to conduct a thorough investigation into aged reactors and open the process to the public.
In June, Hanbit No. 4 in Yeonggwang, located 350 kilometers southwest of Seoul, was discovered to have decayed iron plating and a hole in the nuclear waste containment building’s concrete wall. A hammer was also found inside of its steam generator.
The latest revelation came after Hanbit No. 5 in the same complex was found to have cracks in the nuclear containment building in December.
A total of six reactors have been found to have decayed iron plates in the nuclear containment buildings. The designs of 11 reactors are identical to Hanbit No. 4, a 1,000-megawatt light water reactor built in 1996.
“The defects in Hanbit No. 4 are presumed to have been caused in the process of construction and manufacturing,” the ministry said in a release. “An investigation team composed of officials and private experts will look into all processes ranging from construction and operation over the past 20 years.”
If defective construction or management is discovered, the government said it will take legal actions, including compensation for damages and the punishment of related officials.
Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co., wholly owned by the state utility Korea Power Electric Corp. (KEPCO), operates all of the nation’s nuclear power plants, and KEPCO Engineering & Construction Company Inc., KEPCO’s subsidiary, designs and builds nuclear reactors.
The ministry also plans to ease standards for information disclosure to improve the transparency of the incumbent nuclear facilities, which produces about 30 percent of the nation’s electricity.
South Korea enacted a nuclear inspection law in 2013 after scores of officials at state utility facilities, testing companies and parts suppliers were embroiled in fabricating safety certifications for parts in its nuclear reactors and taking bribes for favors.